The Good Son by Christopher Andersen

Two Fridays ago I blogged about the book I was currently reading, “The Good Son,” by Christopher Andersen. Andersen has written a lot of celebrity biographies and I’ve read a few of his other books. I enjoy the way he writes and how he is so thorough in his story telling.


This book details the relationship between John F. Kennedy Jr. and his famous mother Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and how it shaped his entire life. Jackie had to delicately balance the Kennedy legacy expectations for John and his sister Caroline, as well as allowing them to live their own lives.

Andersen has spoken with many close friends and colleagues of the Kennedys that share intimate stories about the family dynamic through the years. I would say though that I didn’t feel like there was a ton of new information or stories. Three people that were close friends of JFK Jr. (Billy Noonan, Rob Littell, and RoseMarie Terenzio) who all wrote books about their friendships, were quoted throughout the book. I’ve read all of their books but haven’t blogged about them all just yet. But some of the stories I had heard about before in other books or through the media.


I will say though that it was nice to see the relationship evolve between Jackie and the children. She raised them so well and encouraged them to travel, and do adventurous things while also giving back to society and helping others.  It shaped a lot of their personalities and their future endeavors. Jackie also made a point of keeping her children away from some of the other Kennedy cousins who were more wild. She worried they would negatively influence them.


I also found it heartbreaking that John was constantly living in his father’s shadow his whole life. The media was relentless in bringing up his father and his legacy. It also didn’t help that John’s birthday was just 3 days after his father’s brutal assassination, so that right about his birthday every year the media would bring it up.

Everyone describes John as so charming and it’s so sad and unthinkable that he was cut down in his prime, before he was able to enter politics or have children of his own.


Jackie Kennedy’s Timeless Style

Everyone knows that Jackie Kennedy is a style icon. Looking at these pictures of her it’s easy to see why. She is a timeless beauty and has such a classic style. I love her simple fitted dresses with pearls, along with her prints, and the way she wears white pants so well.

It’s been 20 years since she passed and 50 years since Camelot and the Kennedy administration and people are still talking about her.  58b861ba7fc611fdd0f45b36a3f44cf8













Mrs. Kennedy and Me by Clint Hill


Mrs. Kennedy and Me is a very intimate portrayal from Clint Hill who was the secret service agent to Jackie Kennedy for 4 years, from before the 1960 election until 1 year after JFK’s assassination in 1964.

He goes through the evolution of his relationship with Jackie, who he always called Mrs. Kennedy. She referred to him as Mr. Hill. They had a very professional relationship but a very close one.

Clint goes through his life as a secret service agent. He gives an inside look at the demands of being a part of the security detail  and protecting the first family. He talked about his relationship with the Kennedy family. The Kennedys are known for the competitive nature and their football games they’d always play. When they were running short on players they would call Clint in to play with them and they treated him as one of the family. JFK was so personable and knew all of the agents by their first names.

But being with the Kennedys all the time meant time away from his own family, his wife and two young boys. Wherever Mrs. Kennedy went, Clint went. Luckily the wives of the agents stuck together and supported each other while their husbands were away. Jackie liked to be away  from Washington so she frequently made trips. When they would drive in the car Clint and Jackie would smoke cigarettes together in the back seat. She was a closeted smoker which was revealed in the book.  They would talk about life and share secrets.


Being an agent on the Kennedy detail meant getting to experience the luxurious digs of the family, from the beach front house in Palm Beach, the compound in Hyannis Port, and Jackie’s family home Hammersmith farm in Rhode Island. Along with this descriptions of the houses he also has pictures of them in the book too.

The Kennedys leased an estate in Middleburg, Virginia where Jackie spent many weekends  riding horses and playing with the kids. JFK would come on the weekends and leave on Monday to get back to work in DC. Clint said Jackie was happiest riding horses on the farm in private, away from the public eye.

Clint recalls the many trips abroad she took, with her sister Lee Radziwill as well as with JFK and the kids. Jackie was a very popular first lady and brought out the crowds wherever she went.



Being an agent during the Kennedy administration meant a front row seat to historic events, such as the Cuban missile crisis. Clint talks about how everyone reacted to those tense days and how they had emergency plans in place.

For every event in the lives of Jackie in those years Clint was there, including the birth of John Jr, losing baby Patrick from a lung condition, moving in and out of the White House, and that horrific day in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Clint recalls in detail that day in Dallas. He was the agent who ran onto the trunk of the car after the bullets were shot. He had to push Jackie back into the car to protect her, while she was trying to retrieve brain matter of her husband’s.  Clint looked down at the president and said it looked as if someone had taken a scoop out of JFK’s head.



He also reveals what happens at Parkland Hospital and the chaos of it all. He talked to Bobby Kennedy who wanted to know what was going on. Clint talks about how everyone was in shock and couldn’t believe what had happened. They tried to remember they had a job to do and kept their minds busy so they wouldn’t have to deal emotionally with the pain and trauma.

Once JFK’s body had been removed from the hospital and taken aboard Air Force Once, the agents couldn’t believe that hours before JFK had been a vibrant, youthful man in his prime, and now he was coming onto the airplane in a coffin. Clint speaks of Jackie’s stoicism during this impossibly difficult time. When she returned to Washington DC she had to start planning the funeral, which fell on John John’s 3rd birthday. He remembers how to just tried to stay busy planning so he didn’t have to replay over and over what happened. But he lost if a few times during the funeral.


Clint talks about the guilt he felt when he saw the Kennedy family members and feeling helpless. He couldn’t believe that he had let this happen. He should have been able to prevent it. It was his job and he had failed.

After the state funeral, Jackie took a few days and moved out of the White House with the children. Christmas always meant the family gathered in Palm Beach, but this year the light and laughter had gone without JFK’s presence. Clint said it was so painful and surreal.

Clint stayed on as Jackie’s protection for a year after the assassination. He was with her when she moved to Georgetown and later to New York City. He said that everyday he saw the family he couldn’t help but feel sadness and guilt seeing the young children without their father. There were  memories of the day everywhere he looked.

After a year Clint and Jackie both agreed it was time for him to move on. Jackie threw him a going away party and made a book filled with pictures of their time together, including all their travels to places like Greece, Italy, and India. Jackie also made sure that she wrote nice letters of recommendations for all of the secret service men who had protected her family.

After retiring from the secret service Clint talks about how he fell into a depression and wasted years of his life in his basement drinking and smoking cigarettes. But he said that writing this book was very therapeutic for him to release all of these emotions that he had suppressed for so many years. Because after the tragedy the agents didn’t talk about it and they didn’t have any grief counseling, they just went right back to work. I am amazed at the amount of detail Clint is able to recall so many events, from 50 years ago. It was one of the best books I have ever read about the Kennedys because it is so intimate and honest.

The Kennedy White House by Carl Sferrazza Anthony


The Kennedy White House : Family Life & Pictures, 1961-1963 by Carl Sferrazza Anthony was a delight to read. It was a truly intimate look at the Kennedy’s short stay in the White House with just over 1,000 days. But those days were bright, full of hope and promise, artists, musicians, family, and youth and Kennedy’s ‘vigah.’

The books starts right away with Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration including pictures of the family during the events of the day including one of Eunice Shriver recording the inauguration parade on her Super 8 movie camera.

“The Kennedy White House is the first truly intimate look at Kennedy family life inside the White House. It is an unprecedented visit behind the scenes, revealing the world’s most famous family in the world’s most famous house.”

One part of the book I really enjoyed was getting to actually see the bedrooms in the private quarters where the Kennedys lived in those 3 years. The pictures show Caroline’s room complete with her oversized Raggedy Ann doll, and JFK’s bedroom filled with books. There are pictures of private birthday parties for the kids in the President’s Dining Room.

In addition of their time working and doing their presidential and first lady duties, this book also shows the Kennedys during the leisure time, including a picture of Jackie water skiing, and the famous clan sailing in Hyannis Port. There are also pictures of one of Jack’s birthday parties held with his closest family members and best friends.


“The 337 full color and black and white photos, taken by the primary White House photographers, are unstaged and provide a far more naturally, spontaneous, and realistic portrait of the family ever before; most of them, including color photographs of each of the private rooms, have never been seen, and they present an unparalleled look at life as it was lived behind the White House doors.”

The book beautifully chronicles the happy, memorable times as well as the unbelievably sad ending to the mystical and infamous Camelot years, with photos of Jackie and the children leaving the White House after JFK’s assassination. It is a truly great book and I highly recommend it.

Kennedy Weddings by Jay Mulvaney


This book combines two of my favorite topics, the Kennedys and weddings! It was a very intimate family album of 3 generations of Kennedy weddings spanning from 1914 until 1998.  I would consider myself an avid Kennedy family and I haven’t even seen some of these pictures.

I’ve read a lot of books about the Kennedys and I’ve only seen two with the family tree laid out. There is one in here that is great. This book was published in 1999 and as of that time there were 9 Kennedys from the second generation, the children of Joe and Rose Kennedy, then 28 grandchildren, and 48 great grandchildren! That’s a whole lot of Kennedys, and that’s not even counting the husband and wives.

The Kennedy dynasty all started when Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of Boston Mayor  Honey Fitz, married wealthy banker Joe Kennedy back in 1914.


“The family they created would contribute immeasurably to the welfare of the country, and at time even inspire the whole world, in the decades to come.”

It is amazing to get a glimpse inside each of the weddings, from the bride’s dresses, the table settings, the bridesmaid’s dresses, the invitations, and the gifts.

The first Kennedy to get married in the second generation was Kathleen, lovingly referred to as Kick. She married Billy Harrington from England in a civil ceremony in 1944. Their love story was tragic with resistance from her parents due to religious differences, her husband was killed by a sniper a mere 4 months after they were married, and she died 4 years later in a plane crash.


Seven of the nine Kennedy children’s (sister Rosemary was mentally retarded, and eldest brother Joe was killed in a suicide mission during the war) weddings were covered in this book, with the most details and coverage on JFK and Jackie’s wedding. Ted was the only one to divorce and remarry and both his weddings were included.









1973 marked the year of the first Kennedy wedding of the third generation. Kathleen Hartington Kennedy (named after her aunt Kick) was Bobby and Ethel’s eldest daughter of their eleven children, and like her aunt married first of her generation. Ted stepped in to escort the bride down the aisle, taking the place of his late brother Bobby, father of the bride. It was the first of many weddings that Ted had to step in for both Bobby and John’s children, 13 between them.

The weddings varied in size with some more private and intimate and others were large and publicized like that of Maria Shriver and Arnold Scwarzenegger and former first daughter Caronline Kennedy and Edwin Schlossberg. Many weddings were on the lawn of family matriarch Rose Kennedy in Hyannis Port.


One of the last weddings featured is that of JFK Jr and Carolyn Bessette who were a very private couple and opted for a small wedding of just group of close family and friends, on the small Cumberland Island. Their marriage ended in tragedy with the plane crash piloted by JFK Jr on a foggy night off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard just three short years after they were married.


Although the Kennedy name is linked to the past and often times to the so called Kennedy Curse, it is nice to catch a glimpse of this historic family in happy times celebrating love and life, just like the rest of us. The Kennedys have captivated me over the years and continue to. This book is so fantastic and I loved every page of it!

Jackie After Jack by Christopher Andersen



Last week I reviewed Sweet Caroline by Christopher Andersen and this week I’m reviewing Jackie After Jack by the same author.  He writes at such great length about his subjects and I, once again, really enjoyed this book. It was an intimate look into the complicated life of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

I think the acknowledgement section by Christopher Andersen really summed up the book perfectly. “Jackie After Jack is the story of one remarkable woman’s struggle to survive emotionally in the wake of soul-crushing tragedy, of her quest for a love to rival the one she had known, and of her fierce desire to protect her children from being destroyed by the adulation that history has heaped upon them.”

The book goes into detail about her controversial marriage to Aristotle Onassis, her involvement in her children’s life, her years working as a book editor, her life in New York, and her loving relationship with Maurice Tempelsman, and life as Grand Jackie to her 3 grandchildren.

“She held no high office, wrote no great books, created no masterpieces, performed no heroic feats. She invented nothing, discovered nothing. She had no interest in actin and could barely carry a tune. Yet she was the most celebrated American woman of the twentieth century.”

Although there are many well known stories about the Kennedys out there, I always learn something new about them every time I read another Kennedy book and I am continually fascinated.  Christopher Andersen has a book entitled “Jack and Jackie : Portrait of an American Marriage” and I’m sure I will be reading that one soon. I highly recommend this book as well as Sweet Caroline.


WP_000712This picture is from this summer when I was reading this book at the Indiana Dunes, a perfect beach read.


Happy Times by Lee Radziwill


I am a very curious person and love reading biographies and hearing about people’s lives. The Kennedy family is so famous and there were so many people in their world. I have often wondered how the people in their lives who were close to them viewed their world, and how they lived along side them.

In this book, Happy Times by Lee Radziwill, Jackie’s only sister (not including her half siblings) shares personal photos and memories and it’s really cool to see and hear firsthand accounts of Jackie, the kids, and Jack. She shares pictures of her many houses, her vacations, and her feelings about having Jackie as her sister. I only wish this book was a little longer, but it’s fantastic. Lee is gorgeous in her own right not just compared to the great Jackie.

I love the intro where Lee writes, ” Over a number of years, friends have urged me to write an autobiography. I had the opportunity, but after some thought I decided it would involved me in too many other lives. I wanted to do something much lighter, which would touch only on the good times. I also felt that so much had already been said about my family and the people I was close to, that it would be more enjoyable to only remember the best times with them.  Happy times were a better choice for me. I am always aware that I’ve had a special and privileged life, yet it has been balanced by tragedy as it has been for so many others. I believe that without memories there is no life, and that our memories should be of happy times. That’s my choice. ”